MOMBASA DIARY: Chronicles of a Woman in Search of Herself. Part Two: Day Four: Friday 19th April 2013.

Sea and Sand; Dancing together though Daring to Differ. Friendships should do that too.

When the oceans rise and thunders roar, I will soar with you above the storm, Father you are king over the flood, I will be still know you are God- Hillsong.

At sunset, we head down to Mama Ngina drive which lies on the shores of the Indian ocean, just before the Likoni Ferry area.
Mama Ngina drive’s breathtaking beauty in the evening could be mistaken for a scene out of a classic Tom Cruise movie (lemme add that I am talking about the movie ‘Top Gun’ here). The street is filled with bright street lights, sweet aroma from the roadside fresh crisps vendors and the cool sea breeze that lowers the temperature of the land.

The continental slope here is terraced and one can sit on these terraces and stare into the deep blue sea and at the steep rock cliffs that are constantly kissed by the swash and backwash waves.
We buy huge bags of warm, freshly fried cassava crisps and settle at a terrace on the raised continental slope, feet hanging in the air above the moving tides.

The horizon is tinged with orange and a deep crimson and it seems to touch the sea at a distant place which is magical and beyond human comprehension.

We voice our plans to visit Sue’s sister and a close friend Tuechy in Uganda, we speak of past years, realized dreams and shattered ones. We discuss our favorite songs and movies. We talk of God, and of our purpose in this world. We speak about love and heartbreaks and offer each other unsolicited advice and encouragement.
I stare at the fine-looking coral rocks and wonder how old they could be. (Coral reefs are formed when ocean creatures called corals, die and accumulate over the years, to form hard rocks called reefs)

The night moves in, slowly, imperceptibly, boldly.

A passenger ship passes by and hoots. Makes me think of Sinbad the Traveler.

Underneath, the sea waves are hitting the cliffs rather soundly and eroding its walls by hydraulic action.

As darkness settles in and terrestrial radiation starts lowering the temperatures, we sit still, for we do not want to stain the golden hush with words. The silence between old friends acts as an invisible cloak of reassurance. That friendship does not need words to define it, and that even when used, words cannot be enough. For good friends are bound by imperceptible chords of akin memories.
My thoughts float off, through the vast ocean to another dear friend from high school, Olivia. Tucked away in far-away Cincinatti, studying to become a marriage counseling psychologist. I think of a treasured goodbye gift she gave me years ago; a handmade bookmark of a sea at sunset,with my favorite Hillsong United song ‘still’ printed .

Hide me now, under your wings, cover me, within your mighty hand
When the oceans rise and thunders roar, I will soar with you above the storm,
father you are king over the flood, I will be still, know you are God
Find rest my soul, in Christ alone; know his power, in quietness and trust.

We say goodbye and leave. Her to South Coast. Me, to the dear little white walled hotel room in town that has become my home, for now.

Later that night, I get out my writing pad and complete two letters I began writing while in Baringo. One to Hoima, Uganda and the other to Cincinnati, Ohio.

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MOMBASA DIARY: Love and Architecture.

Chronicles of a Woman in Search of Herself.

Day Four: Friday 19th April 2013.
Part One

Fort Jesus and Old Mombasa Town

Old buildings with tales of long long ago, these are a few of my favorite things- my Corrupted rendition from Sound of Musics’ Favorite Things:–)

My girl Sue came over today. She works in kwale but came so we could hang out. We watch a few plays then head to town for lunch. Turns out most of the hotels offer fast foods and very few ‘coasterian’ dishes.
After a lunch of amazing Pilau and coconut chicken, we decide to visit the Forth Jesus historical Site and Old Town Mombasa.
Love and architecture
I am endlessly fascinated by old architecture, especially those with heroic or love stories set long ago. Perhaps it is because of Roger Whitaker and his song ‘Railway Hotel which tells a heart wrenching tale of a lover who wants to take his lover to the classy Savoy Hotel but cannot afford it . He therefore takes her to the Railway Hotel, a low-end inn which has no candle lights and no soft violins. There is only dirty electric transistor and an old single bed. Ps, do not feel sad, the love lasted… smile!

Then there is the Kenyan timeless tale of Nakuru’s Lord Egerton and the Castle that took him years to build for a lady who, after seeing it, laughed it off , turned down his proposal then went back to England leaving the lovelorn Lord Egerton with a broken heart that would never heal and an apparent hatred for anything female(strange how the thin line between love and hate can get even ‘thinner’!) I do plan to say a little prayer for his old soul when I visit the castle this coming August.

There is also a lovely tale of a Hindu man who loved his wife so much that he built her an amazing castle, the Taj Mahal. It took over a decade to construct, had real diamonds used and after completion, he cut off the hands of the architect who designed it; so he would never duplicate it (how possible is it for a man to love with such crazy intensity? Huh?)

Finally, the other fascinating world building took seven years and was constructed by the wisest man alive, king Solomon. Perhaps they call him wise because he didn’t construct it for any of his one thousand women who would most probably to break his heart like Lord Egertons’ , or who would die at childbirth like the lady for whom Taj Mahal was built for! He constructed it for his God, someone who wouldn’t break his heart. Ever. It took him seven years to build this awesome temple. With cedar and pine logs imported from Lebanon, and the inner sanctuary, the Holy of Holies, made of pure gold. Talk of love in its purest, finest form.

Back to Mombasa, our guide, a light skinned middle aged man of Arab origin told us of Fort Jesus, a place where early missionaries hid during war. It is constructed in the shape of a cross and the wall is thick and impenetrable.

We stood at the watch towers, Sue and I, and looked out into the vast waters of the ocean. Back then, they’d be able to spot an enemy ship from the watchtower and attack it, with the huge, machine gun like equipment that still stands, facing the sea.
Inside the Forte, we marveled at ancient crafts by old Arabs that tell of their lifestyle back then, ships at sea, fish, trade bags and pirates. We then looked at some items of old, guns and other merchant devices, salvaged years after a ship had sunk. An old dungeon that served as a prison cell still stands next to the ruins of an old church, perhaps a reminder of how close captivity and salvation are, even now.

The old city is mainly a series of ancient abandoned Portuguese and Arab architectural buildings. Though one or two of them are occupied by young boys selling antiques, or pretty made up Coasterian girls waiting for rich old Mzungus, or by some homeless folk , happy to own an entire building. Or bought off by some enterprising Asians, who’ve fenced it off and placed a large ‘Trespassers will be Prosecuted’ sign to wade off the idle wonderer, the curious traveler or the wild eyed, star crossed honeymooners eager to promulgate their love with a kiss under an old building in an old abandoned town called the Mombasa Old City.

SPEECH DELIVERED AT THE NAKURU REGIONAL BOOKS FAIR ON BEHALF OF MORAN PUBLISHERS ON FRIDAY 7TH JUNE, 2013.

ON THE INTEGRITY READERS BOOKS SERIES
WHY EVERY LITTLE BOY AND GIRL NEEDS TO READ THE INTEGRITY SERIES.
Growing up, I was a curious little girl who liked to know why and where and how and when. I wanted to know why the sun was up in the sky and not in the deep sea, I wanted to know why leaves were green and not purple, I even wanted to know why we put sugar and not salt in tea. And so, I read every children’s’ book I came across, and every newspapers’ young people’s section and every kids magazine.
Because I was a shy little girl, I found new friends in the stories. I met girls like me who were shy and afraid. I met little boys who lived in cottages and drank lemonades made in their backyards. I travelled to many different worlds in my books. Inside wardrobe worlds with Edmund, Lucy and Aslam in ‘The Lion, the witch and the wardrobe.’ Into wonderlands with Alice.
I wished mom would make marmalade from berries (whatever those were).
One day, While visiting my grandparents, I stumbled upon a little handmade book titled ‘Njeri’s Story’. Still curious, I read the simple story of a young girl called Njeri who, when in standard eight was convinced by her neighbor Kamau, to sleep with him. She did, just once and on realizing her mistake and how she had let her parents down. Vowed never to do it again. And so Njeri went on and completed her studies then got a job in the city. However, she started feeling bad and hence went for a checkup. Sadly Njeri was diagnosed with HIV AIDS, chased from her job and went home to wait for a death. Yet she had just had sex just once in her life, a long while back.
When I finished reading this story, I was very disturbed and surprised by it. For one, I like Njeri, had also just finished class eight and was waiting for my results. Furthermore, some boys in the neighborhood kept offering to buy me soda just like Kamau.
Inasmuch as the story shocked me, I also learnt a lot from it. Just a single act by Njeri came to affect her so many years later. From then on, I decided to read books and look for answers to those questions I could not ask my parents. Every time I faced a challenge, I thought of how the little boys and girls in the story books went about their problems and the lessons they learnt in the end. This helped me to be a good child(at least that’s what my parents say.) Even as I grew into a bashful adolescent and teen in later years, Njeri’s story did play a big role in the decisions I made then as I related with the opposite sex and dealt with the wonderment of adolescent emotions.
I was very careful. I didn’t want to end up like Njeri.
TODAYS CHILD FACES MANY CHALLENGES (for an audience of older children)
As a teacher, I have many friends who are teens. Spending time with then has taught me one thing, today’s child experiences a lot more challenges than yesterday’s. Among the most common ones are lack of exemplary role models to identify with. Very few people who are supposed to be role models are actually honest and hardworking. Many ‘successful adults take bribes, steal or even do wrong things intentionally. How then is a child supposed to look up to this person?
There are also too many forms of entertainment available to today’s’ child. How then are young people supposed to choose between movies, social media, hanging out and books and what are the advantages of reading?
Recently, I have been reading a new series of books titled ‘integrity readers’ by Moran publishers. These are amazing picture filled, humorous stories about little boys and girls facing challenges in school, at home and even while travelling on the road. As I read these stories, I couldn’t help but identify with the characters.

One of my favourites in the Moran integrity series is ‘The Flying Pigman’. In this captivating story, a little boy joins a new school only to come face to face with bullies led by one Rufus who are out to frustrate his stay in the school. They steal his carving knife but soon learn that the new boy is also a star at football, easily the teachers darling and a natural leader. A looming football match places the little super boy between a rock and a hard place and he has to choose between doing the right thing and pleasing his friends.
This story by William Maina Mureithi is a must read for any teen who has been to or is planning to attend a boarding school. And it has loads of lessons on nurturing talents too.
In yet another story by the same author, ‘Holes of Shame’, one cannot help but feel sorry for little Huru who turns down an opportunity to attend a national school and instead settles for a local school. Reason? She hopes to find out about her parents. To know who she is. And so we join her as she unravels ugly long buried secrets that could lead to her knowing who she is. However, this requires opening up holes of shame, and some high ended government officials aren’t too happy.
Other titles in the series are also wonderful. Like ‘Saving Isabel’, the story of an orphan girl turned city robber and ‘My Chameleon friend’, the story of why chameleons keep changing color
Through very interesting and captivating stories told in an easy and fun way, moran has excellently addressed modern day themes and issues and hence spoken to every modern child helping s/he walk through childhood, teenage-hood and into adulthood without compromising their stands .
Any child who reads these books will be left determined to take a stand.
WHY READ?
As a student, I remember wondering why we had to read. Why didn’t we just play ? Now, years later, I now understand why:
• One travels far far away with the characters in the story and this is so much fun.
• It is a positive way of spending your energy and time because you can never get into mischief by reading. Plus it develops your IQ, your brain power.
• Character development. In the stories, one meets role models who are admirable and many children will copy this admirable characters and appy them to their life.
• Knowledge on emerging issues; knowledge is power and those who have it are ahead of those who do not.
• Leaders are readers. Good leaders are those who are aware of what is happening around them. What better way to get this information than through reading.
WHERE IS THE TIME TO READ?
Create it. Everyone who has ever lived, from great scientists like Albert Einstein to successful leaders like Nelson Mandela have always had 24 hours in a day. Set aside some time to do what will build you i.e. to read. Make a promise. Write it in your journal and honor it. Success is when opportunity meets a prepared person. Use all the resources given by God and your environment. Visit public libraries in your area, observe your surrounding and be open to learning.
Like someone said ‘You can take a book anywhere, and a book can take you anywhere’. And Moran Publishers do take you places, in a very fun and thoughtful way.

Life Lessons from an Old,Used book:

A book lover walking the rather crowded streets of Nairobi would, every once in a while, find it quite difficult to pass by the busy streets without stopping at one of the numerous places where second hand books are sold. One listens to the loud voice of the hawkers calling out and because of the fatigue after a long day at work, gets slightly irritated. Then without stopping, they give a passing glance to the heap on the ground and walk right on, only to stop after a couple of steps and move back to see if ‘that’ book is actually a Karen Kingsbury.
One then end up spending ten minutes perusing the dusty pile and going through the blurb before picking up five titles then walking away, a little excited.
This week I am reading one of those books. I must have purchased it over three years ago on the busy city streets. It is a hard cover edition titled ‘grains of sand’ and on the cover is a picture of a lone hourglass placed on a table.
The book is a collection of reflective essays by a parson, William O. Smith and it was compiled from a weekly column he wrote for his church newspaper .
What makes this used book quite special is that it was given as a gift by the author to a couple who were his friends and it has a message scribbled in his handwriting.
To Morris and Eleanor Nielsen, You are special people and knowing you brings lots of memories , best to you always .Rev, William O Smith.
These phrase, scribbled on the book 26 years ago, tells us a story. The story of a friendship that definitely had quite a history (I gather this because of the memories bit). But there are numerous blanks in these stories which are likely to make any great readers’ mind roam.
What was the history of Smiths’ friendship with the Nielsens? Perhaps they were part of his congregation at the Shadow Rock church in Phoenix where Eleanor bought the book on 22nd of February 1987. In that case, the memories would be those of days spent putting up a new church, building a faithful congregation, celebrating Easter and Christmas, sending off mission teams, revival meetings, mentoring children who then became teens and then adults, weddings and funerals, loving and losing, introducing new programs and watching some of them fail and any other occurrences faced by Parsons and their congregations.
Or perhaps the couple were childhood friends who had visited their preacher friend in his church and hence brought lots of memories of his childhood hometown and the joys of growing up .
Better still, the couple could have been people he met as a youth trying to find his path in life and perhaps they helped him shape his dream, or they had raised families together and seen their kids off to college, leaving empty nests behind.
Whatever the case, the beautiful friendships knitted in those few yet tender words cannot escape unnoticed. A friendship whose real nature I will never know but which opens up endless possibilities of ‘maybes’.
In the introduction, William says that his hope is that some small grain of sand will open the readers’ world a little wider and reinforce the fact that we all are part of the same human family.
Through a number of anecdotes and reflective essays, William O. Smith tries to make sense of the world he lived in then and in an amazing way discusses a wide scope of issued ranging from economic state of the world, issues affecting the church and even politics.
To a greater extent, this author takes me back into time, into the golden eighties where as I like to imagine, life was less complicated; where to quote Tevin Campbell, ‘those simple days when people said what they meant, and they meant what they said.’ William takes me yet into another world, of Seventh Heaven , of the strong headed Lucy, and Happy the puppy and the twins , of the modern day marriages and the changing values of family and society; of letter writings and new beginnings, of shifting morality standards and of vanishing black and white and increasing grey areas .
Yet with the same stroke of the pen, the book points me right into a future I have so often dreamt about. Of the endless failed attempts I have made at writing such heart felt articles that now lie in an unused file dubbed ‘Droplets of love and laughter’ in the local disk D of my computer.
The dried red rose petals I use as bookmarks in the book serve as a humble reminder that beautiful things die too and that even though some things are dead, it doesn’t mean they were not beautiful.
With each new chapter I read I am reminded of the previous chapter I have just closed . That life must move on, that sacrifices must be made, that we must walk away sometimes, that we must loosen our grip on the sands of time so they may trickle through the hourglass; that we must choose to look at a lost treasure as a pretty book mark and not a withered rose, that a grain of heat must fall to the ground, for new growth to happen.
So there, that is why I cannot seem to end my affair with old, used awesome books.

MOMBASA DIARY: Chronicles of a Woman in Search of Herself

DAY TWO AND THREE.
DAY 2: Wednesday, 17th April.
6.00 am
In Mombasa, Flies are always the unwelcome guest at every meal. Thankfully, they aren’t silent listeners to every conversation or else……………
I was woken up by the call for prayer at the mosque near my room and peeped through my balcony window at the ancient architecture and busy street life below. The sun is already up. Tall coconut trees are swaying in the morning breeze as though dancing to an imperceptible Giriama tune.
I switch on the fan in my room, stare at the ceiling sleepily and finally take a long shower . I settle to eat the junk in my bag before leaving for the Aga khan. A play is already in procession so I have to wait till the end to get in. Bored, I walk to the back, sit at a tent and order a warm cup of special tea to drink as I read my newspaper and my kwani? Majuu.
10.00 am
A good conversation is like well peppered butternut soup , it leaves you yearning for more.
I am enthusiastically digging into my mahamri . On the table next to my cup of tea is the voluminous 7th edition of kwani? The majuu edition.
I just love @roomthinker’s piece, ‘having your cake’. He tells the Kenyans in diaspora that sending money does not build Kenya. That the only way to build Kenya is to come back and work here. I don’t know if I agree with him , but it sounds quite patriotic
Kalundi Serumangas story; ‘Of Fridges and exile Movement ‘ gets me laughing. It’s so silly. Imagine getting a scholarship and relocating to a foreign country then having the scholarship revoked just because some people in the government have decided that it’s their turn to eat? Could even pigeon shit blessings’ be enough to send away this sort of misfortune?
I have met Kalundi once, over lunch , mid-last year through a mutual friend. He passed off as quite a Ugandan gentleman . Tall and huge and rather polite; standing up while greeting a lady and all until the mutual friend told me that Kalundi had heckled Uganda’s president Museveni live on air and subsequently been banned from Ugandan media. Aren’t writers just interesting people?
Back to the story, he mentions Mwakenya, a secret movement of the early 80’s whose members found themselves in trouble with Moi’s KANU regime.
Doreen Baingana’s ‘two airports’ dismays me .I thought green cards meant permanent peaceful residence in the US: Apparently , it too has strings attached!! FYI: they say Baingana has a love- hate relationship with Kenya. And that she wishes she was Nigerian. I’d love to Know why,
Conversations….
I am slightly distracted by the teachers on the next table speaking in loud voices. So I just close my book and listen. They are taking about free laptops and how children suffering from kwashiorkor would afford laptops. Most people find it funny and there is laughter across the tent. I find that sort of reality rather disturbing.
An official of the event takes a seat next to me and I notice the name of the badge is familiar.’ ‘Kennedy, I don’t agree with your take on the set books issue in your article in last Saturdays’ Nation’ I think the selection is biased and unfair…………….’ I introduce myself and soon after we are engaged in a debate hotter than the steaming mugs of ‘special tea’ before us.

DAY THREE
THURSDAY 18TH APRIL,2013.

6.00 am
Mombasa: it’s the only place where you order a mug of steaming tea alongside a bottle of frozen cold water for breakfast.
I am up bright and early. I plan to catch the Sacho high school French play and the Nairobi school play. At six twenty, I receive a call. The court just ruled in favour of Butere Girls’ banned play. Now I’ll get to watch it. Y’aay.
I leave my hotel room and head for a little eatery ‘Malindi dishes’. I stumbled upon it by mistake yesterday night as I searched for a cyber café and went on to enjoy an amazing nightcap before retiring. There’s something about their ‘special tea’. The spices make it quite special and I think I am hooked. The tables are full. I manage a corner seat next to the counter.
Dada utala nini? (sister, what will you have for breakfast?)
Nipe mahamri na special tea.(give me Mahamri and special tea)
Aha, waijua hii special yetu, nzuri ajabu(yeah, our special tea is amazing.)
Na nakuletea mbaazi pia, utengeneze sandwitch na mahamri( I am bringing some coconut beans too, so you sandwich the beans between the mahamri.)
There’s something absolutely, unexplainably divine about breakfast that makes it my favorite meal. I’d love to tell you why but I too don’t know yet. Could be the sunrise, promise of new beginnings, or the renewed energy; or maybe the anticipation of a date with my favourite mug. Whatever it is, I immensely enjoy mine.
I end up eating a mnazi- mbaazi sandwhich in Mahamri. It is well cooked with lots of coconut and so filling. The coconut filled mbaazi is supplied to the hotel by a tiny woman in a stylish buibui. Makes the mbaazi taste even more exotic, right?
Afterwards, I pass by ‘The Blue Room’, (a rather high-end hotel with a cyber that is 2 shillings a minute), the cyber is still closed. So I board a Ferry matatu and head to the drama festival venue. I arrive at ten to eight.
The first presentation is a humorous narrative about a girl called Merimela. I laugh through the whole presentation. Its followed by the Sacho play which is rather simplistic and a bit below my expectation. Moi girls Nairobi presents a solo verse called ‘My Director’ about a school girl who is abusing drugs. the presenter exudes an amazing mastery of her chosen topic and confidence. I enjoy it. immensely.
I watch the sun set over the hot sandy city full of men in kanzu’s and women in long buibuis. I marvel at the old buildings and mosques painted in white and built in old arab fashions. The city is full of smelly heaps of garbage. I wonder if brand Kenya knows this.
Weather beaten election posters are still pestered on walls everywhere. Some torn others ripped off in anger and others marked with felt pens and graffiti to bear a different message.
Nevertheless, political discussions are not too common. Looks like people just want to move on with life. A good thing since politics never puts bread on anyones’ table.

Poem; When time led me on.

I wanted to stop by the stream,

For a drink of the cool running water,

And perhaps a plunge,

To wash the dust off my youthful face.

 

But time led me on,

‘Hurry, the banks’ about to close’,

And quarter life crisis’ here,

Age is catching up,

‘gotta run’ no time for wondering.

 

So I ran along,

Leaving behind fun and rest,

Not taking time to stare at the misty eve,

For I was infatuated,

 by time.

 

 Now times’ a phantom in the wind,

 And I, a sad, old gent

Unhappy and amnesiac

For I cannot remember

The color of grass, or the bloom of a rose

See, I was too busy, ogling at time.